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Drink driving case dismissed as prosecution was “time-barred”.

Updated: May 6






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A DRINK DRIVING AND CARELESS DRIVING prosecution against a woman was dismissed at Limerick District Court after the court ruled that both summonses were statute-barred.


Mrs GL was represented in court by Alan O’ Dwyer BL and Patrick Horan.

 

 

THE CASE AGAINST Mrs GL, aged 74, alleged that on 29 March 2020 she had been arrested at Clarina, Co. Limerick. A specimen of blood was later taken from her.


Mrs GL’s blood specimen showed a concentration of 188mgs. If convicted she would have been disqualified from driving for 3 years.


As the cases were effectively “out of time” 
Mr O’ Dwyer argued that the court
did not have jurisdiction to hear the prosecution.

 

On 24 July 2020 the State applied for a summons for Mrs GL to appear before Limerick District Court on 12 October 2020. A case number (court reference number) for the year 2020 was used for this initial summons.


Mrs GL appeared in court on 12 October 2020, but finding that her cases were not listed before the court she departed.


An application was later made to apply for a new summons against Miss GL.


A case number for the year 2021 was now used to ground these new summonses. But the application date remained the same i.e. 24 July 2020. Summonses for drink driving and careless driving were once again served on Mrs GL.


Mrs GL appeared in court for the second time on 20 September 2021. The cases were adjourned from time to time and were eventually given a trial date of 12 January 2024 before Limerick District Court.

 

On 12 January 2024, Mr Alan O’ Dwyer made a preliminary application before trial began. He asked to address the Judge on some issues.

This approach was adopted at the outset as the Defence took the view that it might not be a good use of limited court time to commence a potentially lengthy trial if the case had little chance of success. It was also the Defence’s view that the court might not have jurisdiction to hear the cases.


The court agreed to hear Mr O’ Dwyer’s submissions.

 

Mr O’ Dwyer stated that Mrs GL had first been arrested on 29 March 2020. As the prosecution was a road traffic one, the case would become statute barred after 6 months i.e. 29 September 2020.


Mr O’Dwyer hotly disputed this.
He said that this was incorrect,
and that Mrs GL would “give evidence to that effect if needs be”.

A summons to prosecute Mrs GL would have to applied for before 29 September 2020 he said. This was done on 24 July 2020, well within time.


She appeared in court on 12 October 2020 but as the case was not listed that day she departed, believing that this might be the end of matters.


BUT SOMETHING STRANGE had then happened.


The State applied for new drink driving and careless driving summonses. Instead of “reissuing” a new summons using the old case number from 2020, the State created a new case number for this fresh summonses.

This case number bore the year 2021.


Mr O’ Dwyer argued that as any new summons would have to be applied for before 29 September 2020. But as long as the new summonses bore the same case number as the old one (i.e. 2020) this would be fine.


But a case number from the year 2021 could only mean that the new summonses had been applied for in 2021 i.e. after 29 September 2020. This would be too late. As the cases were effectively “out of time” Mr O’ Dwyer argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the prosecution.

 





 

 The State argued that the summonses before the Court were not statute barred and were simply “renewed summonses”. They argued that a copy of the original summonses had not even been served on Mrs GL.


Mr O’Dwyer hotly disputed this. He said that this was incorrect, and that Mrs GL would “give evidence to that effect if needs be”. Mrs GL had attended court, he said, on 12 October 2020. He said that she left court on that day as her cases were not listed.


Mr O’Dwyer outlined that it was for the State to prove that both summonses had been applied for within 6 months of the date of the offence. It appeared plainly obvious, he said, perhaps because of an administrative error, that this had not happened.


The summons’ before the Court did not conform with the Petty Sessions Ireland Act 1851, the law which governed these matters.


 

THE DISTRICT COURT JUDGE said that it was for the State to prove compliance with the 6-month time period. Based on the arguments put forward by Mr O’ Dwyer, the Judge told the State that he was “not happy”. 


The Judge stated that he had a doubt as to whether the drink driving and careless driving summonses had been applied for within the 6-month time period allowed by the law.


The Judge dismissed both charges.

  

 

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